Win today and walk together forever.
That’s now the motto for members of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, who ousted the Chicago Wolves in five games to hoist the Calder Cup for the first time in franchise history.
En route to the winner’s circle, the Checkers eliminated the Providence Bruins, Hershey Bears, and Toronto Marlies before knocking out the Wolves to finish the postseason with a dazzling 15-4 showing, capping off a year in which the team finished first league-wide with a 51-17-7-1 record and 110 points.
The top minor-league affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, the Checkers count 19 CHL graduates among their squad, including five from both the QMJHL and WHL and a leading nine from the OHL. That group also counts three sets of former junior teammates in Jeremy Helvig and Roland McKeown (Kingston Frontenacs), Julien Gauthier and Spencer Smallman (Saint John Sea Dogs), and Jake Bean and Morgan Geekie (Tri-City Americans).
Most impressive among that group may be the latter two, who just last year wrapped up their junior careers with the WHL’s Americans, which ultimately ended in a trip to the Western Conference Final. This year, both were key contributors en route to the championship, with Geekie finishing second in team scoring with eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points in 19 playoff appearances, counting a two-point effort in Saturday’s 5-3 series-clinching win, including an assist on Trevor Carrick’s game-winning goal, as Geekie was honoured as the game’s first star.
As for Bean, who the Hurricanes selected 13th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, the budding defenceman held the line while also picking up five points in the playoffs. In the regular season, Bean finished second in scoring among all freshman rearguards as he recorded 44 points in 70 games – including 13 goals to tie the franchise record for single-season goals by a defenceman as he earned a spot on the AHL’s All-Rookie Team.
Among the other Checkers to shine in the postseason was netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, who is in just his third season with the club after splitting his four-year junior career with the Plymouth Whalers/Flint Firebirds franchise as well as the Niagara IceDogs. This season, Nedeljkovic was presented with the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL Goaltender of the Year. In the playoffs, Nedeljkovic came away a 10-4 record alongside a .916 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average.
CHL Graduates & 2019 Calder Cup Champions
Jake Bean (Tri-City Americans 2018)
Clark Bishop (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 2016)
Trevor Carrick (Sudbury Wolves 2014)
Haydn Fleury (Red Deer Rebels 2016)
Julien Gauthier (Saint John Sea Dogs 2017)
Morgan Geekie (Tri-City Americans 2018)
Jeremy Helvig (Kingston Frontenacs 2018)
Tomas Jurco (Saint John Sea Dogs 2012)
Janne Kuokkanen (London Knights 2017)
Steven Lorentz (Peterborough Petes 2017)
Stelio Mattheos (Brandon Wheat Kings 2019)
Roland McKeown (Kingston Frontenacs 2016)
Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound Attack 2015)
Alex Nedeljkovic (Niagara IceDogs 2016)
Nicolas Roy (Chicoutimi Sagueneens 2017)
Bobby Sanguinetti (Brampton Battalion 2008)
Spencer Smallman (Saint John Sea Dogs 2017)
Zack Stortini (Sudbury Wolves 2005)
Dustin Tokarski (Spokane Chiefs 2009)